Author's Note: A little something that's been spinning around my mind for awhile. I'm hoping this will help get the creative juices flowing for my other stories. This takes place post-Sensui, pre-everyone heading to Demon World. I've taken some creative liberties with the timeline, but nothing major. Anyway, please leave me a review and let me know what you thought!
Disclaimer: I do not own Yu Yu Hakusho, and am merely playing with it for the time being. I promise to put it back when I'm done.
After Sensui, Yusuke and Kuwabara stopped trying to get Kurama to come to the arcade with them. They had been trying to get the red-head to join them for mindless fun at the cost of mere coins for ages, but he had always politely declined. The younger boys had assumed video games were just not up the fox's alley. But after learning that he actually did play games – and was very good at them – one would think that Yusuke and Kuwabara would redouble their efforts to get Kurama to join them. After all, both teens had used virtual reality as a means for escaping their real lives for years, even if it only lasted a short time.
But Yusuke and Kuwabara knew Kurama well enough to read the subtle signs. There would be times when they were watching television – with or without Hiei, who sometimes joined them to appease the fox – and an ad for Goblin City would come on. Kurama would either change the channel or excuse himself from the room, returning a few minutes later. He was so natural about these actions, so calm, that it had taken several times for them to notice the pattern.
Other times when they were walking together and happened to pass an arcade, Yusuke and Kuwabara would notice the subtlest tensing of Kurama's shoulders and a miniscule increase in his pace. They eventually started taking longer ways to avoid arcades when with the red-head. No words were ever spoken; their new paths were was if they had always been the usual ones.
Both boys were more than willing to accommodate their friend however they could. It was obvious that video games only served as a painful reminder to Kurama of his match with Game Master – Amanuma. The look in Kurama's eyes after defeating Game Master – Gourmet's beheading and Toguro's subsequent damnation – would forever haunt Yusuke and Kuwabara.
It was often easy to forget that Kurama was a thousand-plus year old demon renowned in Demon World for his mercilessness and thievery, but that moment served as a stark reminder. Whenever they passed by or entered an arcade, the memory would flash through their minds. So, without a word to even each other, they stopped asking Kurama to join them.
On a day not long after Sensui's defeat, Yusuke and Kuwabara had been banned for life – for the seventh time – from their favorite arcade. Needing some mindless fun, they went in search of a new haunt for the time until they felt safe returning to the usual arcade. After an afternoon of searching, they came across one downtown. After some exploration, they were satisfied that it would serve their purposes admirably. So, every day they found themselves falling into the routine of spending time in the arcade – they needed the sense of normalcy when it seemed like everything around them was going to hell, often literally.
"Kurama?" Kuwabara exclaimed one afternoon in surprise, pulling Yusuke from his concentration on his current game.
"What about fox boy?" Yusuke demanded, irritated that his idiot of a best friend had distracted him from one of the best games of his life. He had been on track do beat the high score, and Yusuke never did that.
"He's in the window."
"What?" a distracted Yusuke asked as he tried to salvage his game. "Why would Kurama be—" He cut himself short as his played died on screen. As the game over music chimed in the background, Yusuke looked up to see the familiar red-head standing in the window of the arcade. "Kurama?" he gasped in surprise, lost game forgotten. "What the hell?"
The black-haired teen rose to greet the fox, but Kuwabara grabbed his arm. Yusuke gave his orange-haired friend an annoyed look – on that many demons feared – that didn't faze him. "What are you doing? Kurama's probably looked for us. Why else would he be here," he gestured widely, "of all places?"
Kuwabara shook his head. "He's not looking for us. I doubt he's even noticed us."
"Then why—" Yusuke began but Kuwabara cut him off, pointing to the other side of the arcade. "Oh."
There on the other side of the large room was a crowd around a boy handily beating the record score on one of the hardest games in the arcade. The kids were cheering as the boy played.
"Come on, you can do it!"
"Just a bit more!"
The boy smirked happily at the crowd around him as he played. "Call me Game Master," he said without missing a beat.
Amanuma's face broke into a brilliant grin as his companions teased him, knowing nothing about the origins of that nickname. The boy actually seemed happy, especially compared to his previous state.
Yusuke looked from the crowd back to Kurama. There was a sad smile on the red-head's face as he watched the scene. After a few more moments, Kurama walked away. Yusuke blinked, surprised at the sight. Amanuma didn't appear to have noticed.
The next day, Yusuke and Kuwabara headed back to the downtown arcade. Both were surprised to find Amanuma and his crowd of newly-made friends already there, but even more surprised when Kurama appeared in the window at the same time as the day before. He stayed about five minutes, the same sad smile playing at his features until he left.
Each day for the next week that Yusuke and Kuwabara returned to the arcade, Kurama made an appearance at the window at the same time. Finally, Yusuke had enough of spying on the fox. So, the next day, he and Kuwabara waited until the time Kurama normally arrived and made their way to the arcade's entrance. At Kurama's appearance, the boys stepped out into the street.
"Yo, Kurama," Yusuke greeted with a casual wave of his hand.
The red-head started and the two boys blinked, surprised to catch the fox off-guard. Normally he would have sensed their presence long before they were in sight. "Yusuke, Kuwabara," he acknowledged after collecting himself and schooling his features in record time. "What are you doing here?"
"We were going to ask you that," Yusuke replied, dodging the question.
Kurama blinked then smiled slightly. "I asked first."
"We got kicked out of our normal arcade," Kuwabara answered. "This was the closest arcade we could find."
"Your turn," Yusuke prompted. "We saw who was inside."
Kurama flushed ever-so-slightly but kept admirable control of his tone. "It's on my way home from school," he explained smoothly, not addressing Yusuke's implied question.
Both Yusuke and Kuwabara knew this arcade was nowhere near the route Kurama took from Meiou Academy to his house. Kurama, the genius that he was, undoubtedly knew that they knew as well. But it was an unspoken agreement between them not to say anything.
"Right, well were just heading home. See you later, Kurama," Yusuke said, nudging Kuwabara.
"Bye," the red-head replied absently, his attention already turned to the inside of the arcade – and more precisely, the boy inside.
The two teens made it a block down the street before turning and watching Kurama stare through the window for a few moments before walking in the opposite direction to his home.
Yusuke's heart went out to his friend. Though Amanuma had been revived, there was no way Kurama could have known that would happen. As a result, he held onto the fact that he had killed a human child through underhanded means. There had been no other choice, and the fox was the only one capable of actually going through with it at that time… and that last bit probably unsettled him the most.
"It's really bothering him," Kuwabara said softly as they watched the red-head's retreating back.
"Yeah, it really is."
"Do you think we should do something for him?"
"Like what? Send him a card? I don't think they make 'I hope you feel better after killing a kid' cards," Yusuke countered with a snort.
Kuwabara smacked him upside the head without much force behind it. "Don't be a dumbass. You know what I mean."
"Yeah, yeah," the raven-haired teen replied, rubbing the back of his head. "But really, I dunno what to do for him. He's always dealing with stuff on his own."
"And somehow I doubt Shortie's gonna be much help."
Yusuke grimaced at the thought. "Yeah, Hiei's not much on the whole sympathy deal."
"So that leaves us at square one," Kuwabara grumbled.
The next day, the two boys returned to the arcade and, like clockwork, Kurama appeared in the window and watched Amanuma for a few minutes before leaving. Yusuke and Kuwabara rose to leave shortly after, but as they headed to the door, Amanuma's group was dispersing as well.
"Crap," Yusuke hissed at the sight. He grabbed Kuwabara's arm. "We don't want him to see us or we'll look like creepy stalkers or something."
Kuwabara, unable to resist the chance to tease his best friend, gave him a quick study. "I dunno, Urameshi. You're pretty creepy already."
Yusuke glared at him and opened his mouth to retort when they heard Amanuma speak.
"You guys go ahead, I'll catch up."
After some murmuring of the group of kids, they agreed and headed out the door. Yusuke and Kuwabara stood awkwardly, not sure of what to do. As the last kid left, Amanuma still had his back to them, so the two teens tried to inch their way unobtrusively to the door.
"I know you guys are there," Amanuma said suddenly. Yusuke and Kuwabara froze and turned slowly to the boy they wanted so desperately to avoid. He turned around with an unreadable look on his face.
"Busted," Yusuke laughed guiltily.
"Don't worry," Amanuma grinned all of a sudden. "I know you're not creepy stalkers."
"Glad to hear it," Kuwabara muttered.
The gaming boy closed the gap between him and the two teens. "Really though," he began, "I was surprised when you guys showed up a few days ago. I thought maybe Spirit World sent you to watch me, but then I realized you hadn't even seen me until Kurama showed up."
"Yeah well, we're not exactly on speaking terms with Spirit World right n—wait, you know about Kurama?" exclaimed Yusuke in surprise, cutting himself off.
"And you noticed all that while playing one of the hardest games in here?" Kuwabara asked in shock.
Amanuma smirked at Kuwabara. "Beating one of the hardest games, actually. And yep They called me Game Master for a reason, you know."
"We noticed," Yusuke said, crossing his arms across his chest.
Amanuma shrugged. "Anyway, Kurama's been coming every day since Mr. Sensui was defeated. I'm not dumb, I've noticed him. But…" he trailed off.
"But?" Kuwabara pressed, not ungently.
The boy pursed his lips and looked away from the two teens facing him. "But I didn't think he wanted to be noticed."
"If Kurama didn't want to be seen, he might as well be invisible," Yusuke countered with a frown. "That's like, one of his things."
Amanuma shrugged. "I dunno, I don't know him all that well, obviously. But it just seemed like he wanted to check up on me, nothing more. Besides…"
"Talking to the guy that ki-beat you would be weird," Yusuke supplemented, amending himself at Kuwabara's elbow to his ribs when he started to say 'kill.'
"Yeah," Amanuma agreed, not seeming to pick up on Yusuke's slip – or just not reacting to it. He paused, scanning the arcade a moment before turning back to his teen companions. "But you know what? I'm glad he comes."
"You are?" asked Kuwabara in surprise.
Amanuma nodded and shifted his weight uncomfortably as if unsure of what he wanted to say. Yusuke and Kuwabara watched curiously until the boy spoke. "I guess that I'm glad that he cares how I'm doing. Not many people ever have."
"That's Kurama for ya," Yusuke agreed with a slight smile.
"Don't tell him that I know" Amanuma said suddenly.
"No worries," Kuwabara promised.
Amanuma nodded, obviously relieved.
"How long do you plan on leaving your friends waiting for you?" Yusuke asked after a silent moment. The younger boy blinked.
"Ah, shoot!" Alarmed, he ran to the door but paused as he looked back at his former enemies. "I… guess I'll see you around or something."
Amanuma smiled to himself and ran out the door. Yusuke and Kuwabara looked at each other.
"He seems like he's doing okay," Kuwabara said, watching after the kid.
"Yeah, dying can be rough. He handled it pretty well," Yusuke added wryly from personal experience.
Both boys fell silent. Finally, it was Kuwabara who spoke. "I think he'll be okay. Eventually."
"Eventually," Yusuke echoed.